From The Northern Star (NIU student newspaper), Thursday, January 31, 2002

[Original: http://www.northernstar.info/campus/articles/013102-math.html]

Related Article: http://www.niu.edu/pubaffairs/NT/2002/jan28/math.html


Math comes alive

By Lynn Celmer, Staff Reporter

NIU professors are helping DeKalb students get a head start on their business careers.

Third-graders are using math to solve "quality control problems" for the fictional Sweet Tooth Candy Company.

Fourth-graders are learning geometric and algebraic concepts by arranging triangle-shaped chairs and hexagonal tables at the make-believe Planet Mercury Cafe.

Those are just a few examples from Measuring Up, a program that's helping DeKalb elementary and middle school teachers and their students better relate math concepts to the real world.

Helen Khoury
The brainchild of the Measuring Up program is Helen Khoury, an NIU professor of mathematical sciences.

Khoury started the program six years ago when she noticed an increased need for professional development for teachers in the DeKalb area.

At the time, Khoury had two children in the DeKalb school systems.

"I got to know several of my children's teachers, and they welcomed the idea of a partnership with NIU," Khoury said.

Khoury believes math is more meaningful through realistic problem-solving rather than procedures and routines.

A local flood in the summer of 1996 actually proved to be beneficial for the program.

Khoury said when the Clinton Rosette Middle School flooded, there were many repairs that needed to be done. However, the repairs were not finished by the time students returned to classes in the fall.

Khoury used this to her advantage to teach the children how to incorporate math into what they were seeing around them.

The reconstruction of the flooded building led to a series of math-related activities.

Khoury thought it would be interesting for the children to learn about measurements using the recarpeting of the school. She also included some water absorbency problems.

Diana Steele, assistant professor of mathematical sciences, first got involved with the Measuring Up program six years ago. In her first year at NIU, Steele was asked by Khoury to be a consultant for the program.

A year later she became one of the program's coordinators.

"I would like to see more teachers understanding better how their students think about mathematics," Steele said.

Steele said she also believes the teachers use these techniques every day in the classroom.

"I like to see mathematical activities that relate to real life," Steele said.

Throughout the history of the program, about 100 teachers have participated.

"The main goal of our project is to help develop learners who experience mathematics as relevant, meaningful and enjoyable," Khoury said. "It has been very rewarding working with local school teachers because when you live in a community, you want to give back somehow."


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